Expectations have grown since last year, but the three Blairsville wrestlers returning to Friday’s PIAA Southwest Class AA Regional tournament have the same goals in mind.
Reaching the top of the podium come Saturday at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown will be the only priorities on the minds of Blairsville’s Noah Tarr (145 pounds), Drew Doak (152) and Scott Thompson (182).
Tarr and Doak, who placed second last year in their respective weight classes, plucked top seeds, and Thompson, a third-place finisher a year ago, nabbed the No. 2 seed.
Tarr is a District 6 champion, and Doak and Thompson are each two-time defending district champions in their respective divisions.
Derry’s Micky Phillippi, who won the WPIAL Section 2-AA tournament and the WPIAL tournament, earned the No. 2 seed at 113.
Also, Ligonier Valley brothers Justin (113) and Joshua Patrick (120) each garnered No. 2 seeds. Justin Patrick won regionals at 106 last year and then placed fourth at states, and Joshua Patrick took third at regionals last year and then took fifth at states.
Other area regional qualifiers are United’s Charles Hropovich (182) and Tyler Oliver (195), and Marion Center’s David Wiles (106). Oliver placed second at districts and Hropovich and Wiles each took fourth.
First-year Blairsville coach D.J. Doak said the three Bobcats can help the team achieve goals by simply striving for individual excellence.
“We always talk about the team’s goals. That’s always first,” D.J. Doak, who led the Bobcats to a fourth-place finish at districts, said. “But we also say if we can earn the medals then we’ll always be in the team race. There was nothing more fun than being in first place at districts and trying to keep pace with the top teams. That’s what we want.”
Tarr (33-2), a senior, will get a bye in the first round before taking on the winner of the first-round match between Meyersdale’s Seth Deist and West Greene’s Matt Johnston. Tarr, who bumped up to 145 just before districts, could hypothetically face once-beaten Northern Bedford senior Drew Gartland in the semifinals. Tarr bested Gartland, 6-1, in last year’s quarterfinal-round.
“I don’t think that adds any pressure,” D.J. Doak said of Gartland being on Tarr’s side of the bracket. “Noah’s a pretty laid-back kid. He knows what he has to do and he goes out and does it. I don’t think the pressure of wrestling him (Gartland) in the semis will get to him.”
Sophomore Drew Doak (33-1) won 42 matches and placed seventh last year in the state tournament. Doak will enjoy a first-round bye and then take on the winner of the bout between North Star’s Corey Fritch and South Fayette’s Grant Fetchet.
Because he’s already beaten the bulk of the wrestlers in his bracket, including second-seeded Boe Bonzo, of Freedom, D.J. Doak said his son, Drew, won’t have to worry about building confidence.
“They wrestled at the Southmoreland tournament in December and Drew beat him 5-1,” D.J. Doak said. “He came off the mat and had five things to tell me that he (Bonzo) did that we weren’t really ready for. That’s what I love about tournaments like Bedford and Southmoreland. In Drew’s case, he got to wrestle all but two or three of the kids who are in his bracket at regionals this year in those two tournaments.”
Thompson (12-0), a sophomore and a sixth-place finisher at states last year, had surgery on his wrist in the fall and had to sit out the bulk of the dual-meet season. Thompson received a first-round bye and will lock horns with the winner of the match between Logan Eller (Somerset) and Justin Overly (Mount Pleasant).
If Thompson survives his side of the bracket, he’ll likely meet senior, returning regional champion and state runner-up Dakota DesLauriers, of Burrell, in the finals.
“I think he’s pretty close to 100 percent as far as wrestling condition and his wrist,” D.J. Doak said. “He’s past all that and ready to go now. He had one heck of a good doctor, plus he’s definitely a tough kid and he’s not scared to suck it up.”
Phillippi (35-3), a freshman who got a first-round bye, nipped South Fayette’s Seth Carr, 1-0, to capture the WPIAL title. Phillippi could face Justin Patrick (30-3), who handed Phillippi his last loss, a 3-2 decision, on Jan. 11, in the semifinals.
Joshua Patrick (24-0) bounced back from a serious midseason injury to win his third district crown in four years. Patrick, who’s already signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Rutgers University next year, received a first-round bye and will tangle with the winner of the match between South Fayette’s Mike Carr and Bentworth’s Matt Vickless in the quarterfinals.